Monday, August 15, 2011

The Extremist . . . of Novel Writing by Deborah Jackson

Your book ideas come about . . . how, why?

The twelve-year-old at your next workshop asks: how do you get your ideas? Are they floating around in the air and you just pluck them out of the sky? The journalist eyes you during that long, unnerving interview and says, "Interesting topics," or more like, "Rather bizarre adventures you cook up there, Ms. So and So? Where in the world do you get your ideas?"

Well, I'm an extremist. No, no, not the way you think. I seek out the most extreme environment on earth, or elsewhere—Antarctica, World War II in the midst of Nazi oppression, the barren desert dunes along the Nile, a cave, but not just any cave—the most treacherous cave that ever existed (or in my case, a combination of the most treacherous caves that ever existed rolled into one)—or the moon, and I leap into true tales about real life adventure. The idea begins with what I'm interested in, but the idea expands when I begin to read.

Caves turn to cultures. History is whittled down to the bare bones of history—the people who lived it. I explore environments, then I explore people.

J. K. Rowling mentioned in her speech to Harvard graduates that empathy is essential for every human being, particularly those from a more privileged background. In order to write about people from history (and the current age) I need to understand them and empathize with their struggles. That is why I begin to understand the issues of poverty the Maya face in Mexico, the plight of the Jewish people hiding in cellars, attics and under chicken coops during World War II, the alternate reality of pharaohs and slaves, even the difficulties of a young girl forced to endure the divorce of her parents and having to move to a new city with no friends. I empathize, I create characters close to the real thing. My ideas spring from a jumble of setting, potential plot, and an explosion of adventure, but they really boil down to people, and that's when I start to write.

So is the extremism really about ideas and unique environments, or is it that authors dig too deep, sometimes, to generate a believable character?

I'm sure many do. We can become so immersed in the people we're researching and our characters that we often forget the real world. It happens to me all the time, until I hear that plaintive voice from my son: "Aren't you going to watch Wipeout with us?" "Aren't you coming swimming?" "Mom, I can't find . . . everything. Can you help me?"

You can draw two conclusions from this. 1. I have a hard time balancing my life. 2. My characters stem from a great deal of research and personal involvement. I become so involved, in fact, that I want to rescue historical people from their own history, or my main characters do. Hence we have Time Meddlers.

Time Meddlers is a middle grade fiction series that takes two children, Matt Barnes and Sarah Sachs (who eventually become romantically involved as they grow older) through adventures and terrifying situations. In the first book, they travel to 17th century North America during the time of native wars and the first explorers, where they begin to understand the plight of the First Nations. In Time Meddlers Undercover, they travel to Nazi-occupied Holland, in the midst of the oppression of the Jewish people, like Anne Frank, and get seriously involved in the spy network—the Special Operations Executive. The third book, to be released in 2012, is called Time Meddlers on the Nile. This book explores the Nubian culture, but it also examines the question of a time paradox, a situation where the children must go back and change previous alterations before the past disappears and they themselves are erased, but if they change it to such a degree that they no longer exist, then they wouldn't be able to go back in time at all. It's a wee bit mind-twisting.

You can purchase from Amazon and Kindle:  or Barnes & Noble: or from the publisher's website:
I've also written a romantic thriller called Ice Tomb, a story of ambitious scientists, a mysterious hotspot in Antarctica where scientists are disappearing, and a link to the moon. Read more on RT Bookclub magazine site, where it received a Top Pick: Ice Tomb will be going out-of-print soon and re-released as a classic.

I would like to thank Hannah for inviting me to blog today. If you would like more information about my middle grade series or adult thrillers, please see my website:

If you would like to read the short series based on Time Meddlers, see Matt and Sarah's Misadventures on my blog.


  1. Your books sound wonderful. I will have to get a copy of Time Meddlers for my grandson.

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